Crysis
Crysis 3


Crytek have temporarily taken four of their websites offline following "suspicious activity". You can no longer access Crytek.com, Mycryengine.com, Crydev.net or MyCrysis.com - basically, pretty much anything with the word 'cry' in it (er, except crysis.com) is gone until the holes are patched up. If you have an account with the latter two, you'll be asked to change your password when they return, and if you use the same password anywhere else, Crytek are advising you to change it there as well.

Thankfully, Crysis.com, GFACE.com and Warface.com are all safe - as is Ryse.com, mainly because the latter is something to do with 'energy healing', and is no relation at all to the QTE-fest Crytek are developing for the Xbox One. Crytek are "working on getting all websites fully operational again as soon as possible".

Cheers, Blue's News.
Half-Life 2
CryLife

Can we talk about Dr. Kleiner from Half-Life 2 and what a huge failure he is as a science person? Sure, the guy cobbled together a teleporter in his garage, but when Gordon Freeman shows up after being gone for ten years, what does Kleiner have waiting for him? The same old clunky outdated HEV suit Gordon wore back in Black Mesa. You’d think that as the leading bald science man on earth, he may have added some upgrades in a decade’s time, something along the lines of the nanosuit from the Crysis series. Alas, no: he left that to the modders of Crylife.


Should I use strength, speed, armor, cloaking... or Alyx?
Crylife, created by the two-person Dev.Muffin modding team, is actually a mod for SMOD, which is a mod for Half-Life 2. If you’re not familiar with SMOD, it’s been around for almost a decade and still gets updated and patched every so often. Essentially, it adds new weapons, new enemies, bullet time, and extra gore, making Half-Life 2 crazier, more violent, and more X-TREME. It helps to picture Valve developers sitting around a table in 2004, putting the finishing touches on Half-Life 2, and suddenly Jerry Bruckheimer kicks open the door and shouts “I’m here to help, and my contribution is this GIANT BAG OF COCAINE!” That's SMOD.


There's something very un-Freeman about dual pistols. And yet something so satisfying.
So, you’ve got SMOD for Half-Life 2, and now Crylife for SMOD, meaning you’ve got all the extra frentic action of SMOD plus the nanosuit from Crysis. Let’s go over the suit’s powers, by saying them in a super deep, somewhat creepy voice (here's a refresher if you need it) with an English accent:
MAXIMUM SPEED
Where Half-Life 2’s sprint was really more of a trot, Crylife’s speed will have you zipping all over the map, which is useful if you want to run up and punch an enemy soldier, which is something you want to do. Did I mention there is punching in Crylife? There is punching in Crylife, by holding down the V key, letting you smash wooden obstacles and crates and faces without having to cycle your weapon over to the crowbar, which you no longer have. Punching is fun, though it’s much more effective when using:
MAXIMUM STRENGTH
It’s not just for Tylenol anymore! Now you can punch things (see above), and the things break or go flying. Also, you can jump, while sprinting, which will give you a nice big leap. You know how sometimes you have to jump onto crates to get over walls and fences, or use ladders, or muck around solving see-saw puzzles by stacking cinder blocks on a board? Now, the environment is conquered by your nanobot-infused super-thighs.


Punch-a-Vort: the City 17 answer to Whack-a-Mole.
Which takes us to:
MAXIMUM AHH-MUH
Armor, well, it lets you get shot a lot more without dying, which is useful because with SMOD's extra enemies and their extra bullets, you will be getting shot extra times. Also, some of the enemies have their own nanosuits, just like they did in Crysis. You’ll definitely need armor you protect yourself against them. Even with AHH-MUH (set to MAXIMUM), I die a lot in this mod.


You're not the only one jumping around City 17 like an idiot.
Finally:
CLOAK... ENGAGED


Thanks to CLOAK, this ambush never got sprung. And I got that big promotion! Thanks, CLOAK!
Cloak is fun, because you can walk right up to enemies without them seeing you. As in Crysis, you can’t really do anything violent while remaining cloaked, so it turns into a fun game of, “Can I quickly switch to MAXIMUM AHH-MUH and then carefully insert bullets into everyone before they react?” The answer is yes, usually.


I'm not sure if night vision makes Ravenholm less scary or more scary.
There are weapons, new ones, in Crylife, and with SMOD’s iron sights they’re all MAXIMUM FUN to use. Plus, each gun has two slots for attachments that you’ll find while you’re sprinting, jumping, cloaking, punching, and AHH-MUH-ing around City 17. The pistol can be fitted with a silencer, or turned into dual-wielded pistols for the whole John Woo experience. The machine guns can be fitted with different kind of scopes and silencers as well.


Do you like guns and attaching things to guns and shootin' dudes? Here you go.
The mod is still in beta, but Dev.Muffin has been patching things quickly. I played it earlier this week and noticed some textures missing and a few other minor problems, but when I went back to the download page the next day, they'd already released a new version fixing the issues I'd spotted. There's also a few extra maps and gamemodes you can access from the "New Game" menu: just scroll past the Half-Life 2 chapters and you'll see them.
Installation: Not much entanglement here. You'll need to have installed (and have run at least once) Half-Life 2, HL2 Deathmatch, and Counter-Strike: Source. Download the mod file (it's a hefty one which includes all the SMOD stuff). Open your "sourcemods" folder, which is in your "steamapps" folder which is in your "Steam" folder. Extract the "Crylife" folder into the "sourcemods" folder. Restart Steam, and you'll see SMOD: Crylife appear in your games library! MAXIMUM DOUBLE-CLICK IT, and you're ready to play.
Crysis
Crysis 3

The first multiplayer DLC for Crysis 3 dropped on Tuesday, bringing with it a host of new tropical content including four new maps, two weapons and two new multiplayer modes: Frenzy and Possession. Crysis 3: The Lost Island now has a launch trailer to celebrate the first weekend of jungle-bound mayhem with lots of smash cuts, sunsets and nanosuited parkour.


One of the great things about Crysis 3’s multiplayer is the incredible sense of speed that comes from vaulting up over walls at a dead sprint. That feeling of momentum is only compounded when you’re whipping past trees and fat-leaved ferns in a thick island forest.

The two new game modes will be interesting to play in this new setting. Frenzy features a cycling weapons loadout with limited respawn windows, while Possession invites players to scrap over a single flag and hold on for as long as they can. Both of these modes will thrive in the chaotic wooded environments of the Lost Island.

Stepping away from the skyscrapers of the urban jungle results in a lot of interesting juxtaposition, like high-powered nanosuits blasting at each other from atop corrugated iron shacks or a squad of technological super soldiers advancing along a rickety rope bridge. It all looks fantastic, of course.

I’m about to load up the new multiplayer maps, and the first thing I’m going to do is step into thick vegetation, engage my stealth power and start making predator noises into my headset. Because it’s the weekend, that’s why.

The Lost Island is out now for PC.

 
Crysis
Crysis 3 DLC?


Visions of paradise have tantalized us as summer nears; the Sims 3's next expansion looms on the horizon, a mirage of houseboats and comical krakens and coconut-shell bikini tops. But what if you're looking for something a little grittier? Well, signs are pointing to a possible Crysis 3 DLC—perhaps an island vacation with bullets whizzing past swaying palms.

MP1st has been keeping an eye on Crysis 3's social media streams, and its findings have been curious. Crytek has been publishing images from past renditions of Crysis—namely, the tropical scenery of Crysis 1. For instance, there's this postcard-pretty view of a greenery-swathed waterfall—with what looks like a new weapon in the bottom-right corner.

And then there's the recently outed list of upcoming Xbox 360 achievements, including such wittily named feats as "Totally Oarsome" and "Wish You Were Here." I'm envisioning smacking some canoeing tourists' faces into a crystal-blue ocean with one of their own oars.

So is Crysis getting back to its roots, eschewing the gloom of a future New York for a jolly jaunt in the jungle? It's pure speculation for now, but we'll be sure to let you know as soon as we hear anything.
Crysis
Crysis 3


MaLDo, creator of the exceptionally pretty Crysis 2 graphics update and spotter of Crysis 3's ropey optimisation issues, has released a new tool for Crytek's latest PC punisher. OnTheFly lets you easily tweak Crysis 3's CVAR values in-game with a single button press. New shortcuts let you hide the HUD, tweak Depth of Field, and load a selection of custom presets. It should be perfect for keeping your frame rate high while your rig's assaulted by the sheer graphical powerhouse that is the first level's moving ropes.

The utility lets you create your own graphics presets, but MaLDo says the ones he provides are plenty pretty, enabling Global Illumination and high distance view even on low. You can also instantly modify the weapon FOV, which Crysis 3 apparently resets after every respawn.

MaLDo is keen to point out that the modified executable is not a crack, so won't bypass the game's DRM. He does, however, warn that the utility is only meant for singleplayer use, and that taking it into multiplayer may result in a ban.

You can download OnTheFly from here. See the full selection of shortcuts it enables below.

O - Hide HUD (Maybe you want to take some beautiful screenshots)
P - Show HUD (Maybe you want to locate enemies after taking screenshots :P)
I - Modify weapon FOV (Crysis 3 resets weapon FOV after every respawn)
6 - Reload low quality preset
7 - Reload recommended quality preset
8 - Reload ultra quality preset
9 - Activate normal Depth of field
0 - Activate ultra Depth of field
T - Activate slowmotion
Z - Deactivate slowmotion.
Crysis
Crysis VR


Listen, developers: if you're planning to add Oculus Rift support into your games, you'd better do it quick. Wait too long and modding powerhouse Nathan Andrews will beat you to it. He's unstoppable. Fresh from taming the Source engine to add head and gun tracking to Half-Life 2 and Black Mesa, he's now turned his attentions to the CryEngine, and has a video of Crytek's first nanosuited outing running with the tech.



"I ported the Half-Life 2 VR mod that I've been working on over to Crysis and Crysis Wars (and also Cryengine 3 if anyone is interested in building a game from the ground up with VR support)," writes Andrews, as if it ain't no thing. The mod's not yet complete - as you'll see in the video, it's lacking crosshair tracking and iron-sights, making aiming a bit difficult. Still, as proof of concepts go, it's undeniably impressive.

This may be the thing that pushes me over into actively wanting an Oculus Rift. The device has always seemed interesting in an academic way, but the chance to go Predator through Crysis' jungle island sounds simply irresistible.

Given that modders are geniuses who can do anything (probably?), which games would you love to see running in VR?
BioShock Infinite
Face_Off_crysis


In this week's debate, Evan argues that Crysis 3 is the best-looking game in gaming, while Tyler isn't wooed by its tessellated vegetation and volumetric fog shadows. It's undeniably impressive tech, but does Crytek still wear the graphics crown?

We assault, parry, and counter-parry on behalf of both sides in the debate below. Make your own case in the comments, and jump to the next page for opinions from the community. Evan, you've got the floor:

The Debate

Evan: C’mon, Tyler, have you seen Crysis 3? Go ahead, look at it. I’ll wait here.



Tyler: Oh, I've seen it. CryEngine is technically fantastic. Just like Thomas Kinkade was a technically skilled painter. But do I like his paintings? Not at all. Now Evan, I know you've seen BioShock Infinite. If Crysis 3 is a Kinkade, BioShock Infinite is a Norman Rockwell.

Evan: BioShock is beautiful, and I’ve talked with Irrational a bunch about what they’re doing to make the game look as good as it can on PC. Infinite’s art direction is inspiring, but I don’t think its fidelity and effects approach Crytek’s stuff, to be honest.

Man, we sound like a stereotype of teen girls, don’t we? “Oh my god Tyler, Orlando Bloom is so much cuter than Ryan Gosling, I don’t even know you anymore.”

Which would be a better date, Crysis or BioShock?

Tyler: Psh, Gosling is way cuter, but I see your point. If not technical quality, we're arguing a subjective preference for one style or another. But we can still argue it. Art criticism is valid, and if it isn't, my doodles are just as special as Crysis 3’s art direction, because that’s just my opinion.

Evan: We have to consider both sides, though. Crysis is totally concerned with maximum performance, and that theme extends to the technology that drives the art as well as the art itself. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all, but Crysis also wins from a quantitative standpoint. The gun models are carefully animated, but they’re piled with polygons. Wall textures in obscure corners of levels are given an unusual amount of care, but they look higher-resolution than any other game. In terms of raw texture quality and the 3D and 2D assets Crytek puts into the game, it’s evident that Crysis 3 is the prettiest thing on PC. Even the damn grass is innovative.

Tyler: I see we've hit the semantics hurdle already. It's hard to avoid in debates like this, but let's try to leap over it. “Prettiest” can mean a lot of things. I’m not taking it to mean “great anti-aliasing” or “look at all that grass!” To me, it could mean Limbo’s black and white film reel or Mirror’s Edge's stark playgrounds. Can you argue for Crysis 3 on those grounds?

Evan: Sure, but as PC gamers we’re interested in what our handmade machines can do. If someone asked you “I just built a PC. What game will really show me what my hardware can do?” would you recommend Limbo over Crysis 3?

Tyler: Alright, maybe not, but if you want to go technical, mods make Skyrim and GTA IV way more fun to look at than Crysis 3's rusted metal and overgrown foliage. iCEnhancer is insane.



Evan: iCEnhancer is a terrific mod. It’s a great demonstration of what’s possible on PC. And I don’t want to shrug off the effort it took to make it, but it isn't a comprehensive approach to creating something visual and interactive. It’s CG for the sake of CG. It’s novelty, to some extent, like the Star Wars special editions. Great visual design originates from an artistic vision and having the technology to convey that vision. Crysis has both sides of that.

Tyler: So you agree it’s not just about cranking up the polycount, but I disagree that Crysis nails the vision side of things. If I were going on vacation, I’d much rather book a tour through Skyrim’s snowy peaks and shimmering lakes.

Evan: Yeah, it’s obviously not all about stuff like polycount, but if we’re comparing two 3D, first-person games, the technical quality of assets matters. It’s the reason Skyrim’s characters appear slightly flat to me—they feel like inexpressive NPCs, and Psycho feels like a virtual person.

Skyrim's Mr. Corn Cob Horns

Crysis 3's Psycho

Tyler: Your counter-argument is vanilla Skyrim, but I'll go with it anyway. Yeah, it's got some blurry bits, but a trip to New Zealand with my glasses off is still better than visiting a movie set with 20/20 vision.

Skyrim is so full of character and variety. It's got this unique sense of scale, where mountains somehow feel like huge miniatures. It's got- well, I could go on, but instead I'll just show you my tribute to it:



Crysis 3 just doesn't do that to me—It's got some lovely swaying grass, but for all that foliage it doesn't feel alive.

Evan: Skyrim is pretty, but not nearly as impressive. I guess I judge visual experiences more on how intensely (and how often) they produce that feeling of “I can’t believe this is coming out of my PC.” Or “I can’t believe this isn't pre-rendered.” Those moments that raise the bar in my mind of what computers can do. Crysis does that more than any other game for me.

Tyler: Does it? Crysis 1 got us so used to holding the series up as the benchmark for PC power that it’s become our default, but it’s not 2008 anymore. Have you seen Witcher 2 with ubersampling? It’s called “ubersampling,” man, how could we ignore it? And don't forget about RAGE. We didn't totally love the game, but damn it looks good.

Sorry buddy, id is still the tech leader. Since you like comparing characters:

A passive gaze in RAGE.

Evan: Two bandanas? CryEngine can only render one; I am defeated.

But yeah, I actually had forgotten about RAGE. It speaks to id’s technical strengths that they can take a brown setting and make it look that beautiful. I’d be willing to say that RAGE’s acrobatic mutants are better-animated than Crysis’ bad guys. But I’d rather be in Crysis’ sunny, overgrown jungle than RAGE’s bright, barren desert.

Psycho in his debut role on Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Tyler: No fair choosing such delightfully dramatic lighting.

Evan: I just like the idea of Psycho telling me a ghost story behind that flashlight.

Tyler: It'd probably be way better than some silly story about slapping a “Nanodome” over New York. Forget about people faces, there’s something really special about RAGE's rock faces. Look at them for a while, and you realize that they haven’t had a tiled texture slapped on like, say, almost every other 3D game before RAGE. The whole surface has been hand painted with virtual texturing. Yeah, that’s something John Carmack invented. Have fun with your dumb non-virtual textures.

I asked id’s Tim Willits to help explain, and he said something that's hard to argue: “Michelangelo could not have painted the Sistine Chapel using procedurally generated textures.” Hear that? id Tech 5 would totally be Michelangelo’s preferred engine if he were alive today. Alright, maybe that's not exactly what he was saying, but it makes the point: an engine that removes limitations from the artist enables better art.



Evan: Virtual texturing is an exciting technique, and I’d love to see it used and iterated on more. But innovations in how flat, static surfaces are rendered don’t excite me as much as the improvements Crysis 3 made to lighting, animated vegetation, and character tessellation. The game has more moving parts, and they all feel authentic. Here’s a trailer that pans through some of the improvements:



Tyler: Alright, so that’s some stunning simulation. I especially like the “dynamic water volume caustics.” Still, I think you might have something else to say about “flat, static surfaces” when Arma 3 comes out. Its scale is incredible and the lighting is gorgeous, but check out that repeating ground texture. Blech! It and Crysis 3 would benefit from id’s technology and artists.



Evan: Oh, whatever. Arma 3 is a huge step forward from Arma 2, and I could even write a massive defense of Arma 2’s visual design, flawed as it is. The animations are rigid, and most of the textures look like they were picked up at a garage sale, but it’s one of the few games (with Crysis) where I go out of my way to run through grass because I love how authentically it animates.

It’s easy to be critical of all of these games. I don’t like Crysis 3’s overuse of motion blur (though some console commands can help with that). But we’re here to name a king—the best-looking game on PC. And I think Crysis’ sci-fi setting, neon weaponry, uncompromising approach to movie-like effects, and Crytek’s incredible engine represents the best-yet combination of aesthetics and technical quality.

Tyler: We'll see about that. You managed to derail my train and put it on the tech track, but now I’m re-railing it: objectively, both CryEngine and id Tech are superior to Unreal Engine 3, but BioShock Infinite is still better-looking. It’s got more style than Crysis 3 has blades of grass, and that’s where it counts. The magic isn't in the fancy shaders or even virtual texturing: it’s in the idea-havers and the art-makers.

Follow Evan, Tyler, and PC Gamer on Twitter to react to our battle prompts as they happen, and see how the community responded to this one on the next page.




@pcgamer modded or un-modded? Because I'm pretty sure you can make Skyrim look better than real life if you install enough mods.

— superkillrobot (@superkillrobot) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer technology wise? Probably. Art direction? Imagination? Notsomuch.

— Tony Heugh (@standardman) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer Definitely, no contest.

— Jake (keyboardN1nja) (@keyboardN1nja) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer For me, I gotta say Battlefield 3.

— Tribesman Gaming (@tribesman256) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer it is definitely, by far, the best unmodded game in terms of raw graphics ever. It just is. Real time caustics. 'Nuff said

— Kai Moseley (@Kibby_Cat) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer Yes, from a tech perspective. Psycho's model is IMO the most realistic looking human model in a game yet, coming from a #BF3 fan.

— Gerardo Pena (@Tobi5480) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer Crysis 3 does look fantastic, but something. about the snowstorms in Skyrim just blow me away.

— NSVG Blog (@NSVGBlog) February 20, 2013
Crysis
Crysis 3 armor mode


Though Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli is under a non-disclosure agreement from both Microsoft and Sony to not MAXIMUM BEAN-SPILL details on their next-gen console reveals, that doesn't prevent him from preaching a bit to the Nanosuited choir. Speaking to Eurogamer, Yerli flatly proclaims the hardware rift between modular PC setups and the upcoming console family makes it "impossible" for the latter to match beefy battlestations.

"It's impossible to package $2,000-$3,000 worth of hardware into a mainstream—let's say $500—console," Yerli says. "I'm not saying they are $500 consoles. They may launch a console at $2,000, but the consumer pricing is usually much lower than that. So, given consumer pricing, and given the cost of production of a gamer PC and the amount of wattage and power it needs, which is like a fridge, it's impossible."

Yerli believes PC gaming's flexibility with swappable hardware components and the range of possible configurations gives it a competitive edge against consoles.

"The whole modular way you can design a PC today with two, three, or four graphics cards in them, and you can water-cool them and overclock to infinity, that didn't exist even six or seven years ago," he says. "You just bought one or maybe two graphics cards and then you were super enthusiastic.

"It's very difficult to compete with that. People have these massive nuclear power plants standing in their rooms that will run your games really fast. It's hard to compete with."

Crytek's sleek Crysis franchise boasts a long-standing reputation for pushing the limits of hardware as far as it can, but in the realm of consoles, Yerli admits the studio's efforts to drive graphical innovation only progressed so far.

"It was like a five or ten percent gain," he estimates. "That's it. We improved quality on consoles both visually and perception-wise through different techniques, not just brute force technology. So I think it's above Crysis 2 on consoles.

"But the PC version, because the specs are now much more evolved—this is two years later, effectively—this is two generations of PCs we could leverage and DirectX 11 is fully rolled out, so now we could really push it," he continues. "I made a joke at one point saying, 'We're going to melt PCs,' and I think we're going to melt PCs again. People want that, and we'll deliver that."

It seems Crytek decided to unleash the full might of its CryEngine 3 workhorse after hearing requests from hardware-philes for a game to truly churn their machines.

"With Crysis 2, we tried to make the specs available to as many PC gamers as possible," Yerli explains. "Then we heard back from the loudest group, which was enthusiast PC gamers, who said, 'Our PCs are running this game at 200 frames. What the hell? We should be running at 30 frames.'

"Our graphics programmers said, 'We're going to give them a game they can't run any more.'"

We accepted the challenge of running the un-runnable and dived into the brush and rubble of Crysis 3 for our review, which you can read right here. Also check out <a href="" target="_blank">Eurogamer's full interview.
Feb 19, 2013
Crysis
nanosuit_walking


An action hero’s weapon is an extension of their identity. They’re inseparable implements, representative of their approach to combat and justice. Bond’s silenced PPK. Batman’s iconic boomerang. Mjölnir and Thor. Even Popeye’s transformative spinach says something about him as a character.

What does the Nanosuit say about its wearer in Crysis? That the player has a need to improvise, a need to see-saw between being an assassin and being a brute. “Press Q,” reads the manufacturer’s tag on the collar, “to harden your skin like a brick wall. Press E to become as transparent as a pane of glass. Tumble dry low.”

Crysis, at its best, is a franchise that puts you in situations where the Nanosuit doesn’t do the dirty work for you, but simply serves as a springboard for spontaneous problem-solving in hazardous battle-playgrounds. Crysis 3 doesn’t deviate from this template, but it does mostly repeat Crysis 2’s interpretation of it. It’s a less sandboxy and groundbreaking one than the original Crysis, to be sure, but linearity isn’t an inherent sin. Crytek’s shooter remains one of the best-looking games anywhere. It’s acrobatic and deliberate, especially in multiplayer, and an expression of what PC hardware can do.



New New York
Crysis 3’s campaign feels more of a continuation than a reinvention of Crysis 2. You’re still in the Big Apple, though one that looks like your neighbor’s house when they’ve been on vacation for a month, leaving their mail to pile up and yard to overgrow. Paramilitary bad-guy corporation CELL has taken credit for your heroic effort in the last game, and while you’ve been asleep they’ve gotten busy exploiting some secret power source to revitalize ruined NYC. Enormous, spherical barriers called Nanodomes have been erected to accelerate ecosystem growth.

At the start of the story you’re sprung from a stasis pod by Psycho, a former fellow Raptor Team member, to join a rebellion against CELL. Psycho and others have been “skinned” of their Nanosuits, making you, Prophet, the only one on the planet. Cue the standard “you’re humanity’s savior” spiel: Prophet’s unique bond with Ceph DNA grants him new power, but also exposes him to potentially being controlled by the Ceph hivemind. Psycho’s vendetta to find out who separated him from his superskin motivates the first few hours. He joins you as a temporary companion character on missions to sabotage a few well-designed CELL facilities, like a hydroelectric dam.

My hope was that this plot and the terraforming power of Nanodomes would be natural excuses for Crytek to create a broad set of exotic environments. And my worry was that Crysis 3 might simply coat Crysis 2’s somewhat-claustrophobic city blocks with moss. In 2011, I criticized the sequel’s narrowness: “Expressing your abilities as a player demands vertical and horizontal space, and there’s slightly less of it in NYC than I would’ve liked.”

Psycho's presence isn't unwelcome, operating as a passive guide for Crysis 3's first couple hours.

"My worry was that Crysis 3 might simply coat Crysis 2’s somewhat-claustrophobic city blocks with moss."The level design of Crysis 3 falls somewhere in between this gulf of opportunity and familiarity. “Urban rainforest” as an aesthetic isn’t really strayed from, and if anything, it feels under-expressed in that it’s never taken to its natural extreme. The world rarely seems wild. I never felt like I was in an NYC that’s been swallowed whole by the Amazon. A few areas filled with meters-high marsh grass are the exception. In one of my favorite sequences, Crysis 3 threw packs of Ceph Stalkers—melee assault units with scythes for arms—at me in a railway car graveyard submerged in a wavy green ocean under the sun.

The Ceph Stalkers didn’t bolt directly at me. They didn’t magnetize to my position like most game enemies. They darted. They took indirect, lateral routes. The stalks of grass quivered, but in a way that obscured the true orientation of enemies. I remember emptying a shotgun into the brush, still unsure if I clipped one. I felt anxiously, wonderfully lost. I couldn’t tell if I was in Central Park or Jurassic.

This was a legitimate “the floor is lava” scenario. In a panic, I perched myself atop one of the railcars, a rusty island. Four Stalkers, by my count, were orbiting the car, pouncing in the jungle bed like cheetahs. I gripped a grenade, pulling the pin before I even knew where I was going to throw it. The grass flickered at the opposite end of the ruined train. I chucked the bomb, holding my breath. Ten gallons of bubblegum blood sneezed out from behind the end of the car. A radar blip faded. The whole arc felt like playing Marco Polo against jungle raptors.

This moment—feeling alienated on Earth—is an outlier, unfortunately. Structurally, the level design has improved some: two chapters feature caves, and an above-average turret sequence or two, but mostly gone are the subways, parking garages, sewers, and elevator shafts of Crysis 2. The campaign also sprinkles in optional secondary objectives—no substitute for a proper sandbox, but they’re decent carrots that pull you away from primaries. Some are as simple as clearing a set of mines around an light armored vehicle using the Nanosuit’s new hacking mechanic (a timed button-press mini-game that’s appropriately complex). In some cases, completing these side missions grants functional benefits: liberating the LAV let me catch a ride with them through a segment of the map, operating their turret as they taxied me. In the same chapter, a mortar team volunteered their services after I killed some Ceph harassing them, unlocking the power to call in artillery strikes.

The Bolt Sniper, one of Crysis 3's terrific Ceph weapons. A CELL soldier gestures toward some higher power in his final moment.

Foreign imports
Most of what you shoot in Crysis 3—the CELL weapons—are copies of what you shot in Crysis 2. I’m fine with that: Crytek’s near-futuristic ballistic guns don’t need replacement. Instead, the number of violent bells and whistles you can attach to conventional weapons has multiplied. One of the basic rifles, the Grendel, can be mutated from a sci-fi M4 into a ridiculous death platform. Throw a miniature version of the Typhoon—a new SMG that spits 500 bullets per second—under the barrel as an attachment. Swap in a muzzle break to improve the accuracy of your first shot. Load a mag of 6.8mm AP ammo (if you’ve found one of the special ammo caches) for greater penetration. Even shotguns get access to electric buckshot.

The déjà vu of handling the same weapons is offset by Prophet’s newfound ability to wield Ceph guns. Each of these devastating power weapons pulls from a single, small magazine of ammo. They’re intentionally disposable; as long as you don’t mutilate an alien with explosives, you can steal their flamethrower, lightning sniper rifle, or absurd plasma minigun that transforms into a wide-firing plasma shotgun. Firing each of these produces the same pleasure I felt when I first fired the Combine Pulse Rifle in Half-Life 2: giving enemies a taste of their own medicine. Their power is offset by the weight they place on Prophet (you can’t leap as high when holding a Ceph weapon), and by the loss of the ability to swap freely between standard firearms and the new Predator Bow.

"The déjà vu of handling the same weapons is offset by Prophet’s newfound ability to wield Ceph guns. "On the receiving end of these guns, though, I found the Ceph to be a little tamer than they were in Crysis 2. Ceph Stalkers are underused. Devastators, formerly the alien tanks of Crysis 2, fall easily from the basic Ceph Grunt weapon, the Pincher Rifle. Ceph Spotters, floating drone-spheres that can zap you with EMP, were almost unnoticeable in the campaign. The new Ceph Scorchers are a bright spot. When attacked, they pop up their torso like a tower shield, making them invulnerable to direct assaults. They’re scary, glimmering little scarab-tanks—even when you’re hidden, they’ll intermittently torch an area while on patrol, like a camel might casually spit.

Turning the difficulty to Supersoldier (the fourth of five settings) did make things more comfortable (i.e., uncomfortable). Some of the increased ease of Ceph-killing is owed to the ability to wield their weapons, but more of it is due to the Predator Bow, which has a unique advantage within Crysis: firing it while cloaked doesn’t interrupt invisibility. It’s also permanently in your inventory. Crytek mitigates the Predator’s power a little by making its ammo scarce, but because you can recover basic arrows from victims, and most enemies die from a single, full-power shot, the bow occasionally feels like an easy way to clear a room. I still consider it a good addition to the weapon set because it demands being careful and deliberate in a way that Crysis’ other weapons don’t.

CELL soldiers are beautifully-modeled action figures, covered with overlapping military kit.

Invisible war
It’s remarkable how well Crytek’s UK division has made Crysis’ overpowered pajamas work in multiplayer. Migrating the mechanics of invisibility and near-invulnerability into a balanced arena can’t be easy. Online play, like the campaign, does feel more like a renovation than original work. Even one of the 12 maps, Skyline, is a reskin of the popular Crysis 2 level of the same name. But this whole side of the game feels as affectionately made as it did in 2011, and anyone that played the previous multiplayer should welcome more of it.

Some of the mode’s cleverness comes from Crytek worrying more about what’s fun than what makes sense within Crysis’ canon. In multiplayer, the Nanosuit’s stealth and armor powers operate on two separate batteries, not a shared pool. You can cloak and then immediately activate armor mode with no penalty. This wrinkle encourages a heavier use of stealth—armoring-up, bagging a kill, and then cloaking away is a viable getaway maneuver.

What I love about the the ubiquity of invisibility in competitive play is the way it makes seeing and listening necessary skills. The pace of movement in multiplayer—fast respawns, bottomless sprinting stamina—exceeds Call of Duty, but I rarely fall into the tired meat grinder mindset that I usually do in that franchise. It’s mitigated by two things: a killstreak system that doesn’t shower skilled players with ridiculous bonuses (you also have to earn rewards by retrieving enemies’ dropped dogtags), and the need to observe the world around you and absorb every drop of audio to stay alive. The sound design, vibrant and functional as it is in the campaign, clearly communicates threats and events. Footsteps betray enemy positions. Distant, crackling firefights let you know where you’re needed. Metagame accomplishments don’t overpower the moment-to-moment combat. When you penetrate an enemy’s armor, it crunches like a trillion walnuts, an effect that coincides with a shower of neon marbles falling off an enemy’s body.

"The the ubiquity of invisibility in competitive play makes seeing and listening necessary skills."Imitating the campaign, multiplayer maps are also sprinkled with the new alien guns. They operate as arena-style power weapons, but their rarity and limited ammo assures that they never grant more than a handful of kills. Their presence doesn’t fundamentally change Crysis’ multiplayer into Quake or Halo, but it does make it more interesting. As does the addition of passive aircraft on some maps. On certain modes, you’ll spot an empty CELL VTOL. It hovers softly around the map like a turret-strapped ice cream truck. Hopping into it makes you a target, but even though it’s as slow as a crippled carousel horse, I loved the platforming challenge of sprinting up a ledge and leaping in before it flies away. You feel like Bruce Willis.

Hunter is Crysis 3's best multiplayer mode.

Creative mode design also continues to be a strength. Among eight modes, the stand out is Hunter, an asymmetrical, infection-style game type that matches two Nanosuit players against 14 CELL soldiers. Unless they’re hit with an EMP grenade, the Hunters are permanently invisible, with Predator Bows and a bottomless stealth battery. Everyone has sparse ammo. Playing as the prey, CELL, you feel like a bunch of teens thrown into a two-minute horror movie—you’re equipped with a proximity alarm, which pings like a paranoid steel drum whenever a Hunter is close.

"You feel like a bunch of teens thrown into a two-minute horror movie."It’s such a wonderful rearrangement of the mechanics. As a Hunter, you feel a ton of urgency, as a CELL, you’re balancing the safety of sticking with your teammates against the potential protection of isolating yourself in a far-off corner of the map and hoping you get ignored. There are also massive body shields in the environment that CELLs can pick up. In my finest moment, I cornered myself with one of these as Hunters encircled me. With my doom a certainty, I threw the shield at a cloaked player in front of me, crushing him with it in a final blaze of hilarious sacrifice.

Post-modern
Even with all the praise I’ve thrown at it, I worry about the longevity of Crysis 3’s multiplayer, based on how people seemed to abandon Crysis 2’s after release. It’s a minor tragedy that people don’t seem to see Crysis as a multiplayer game. They still think of it as the GPU-eating titan it debuted as.

Really, it’s both. Crysis 3 is launching with the same advanced settings Crysis 2 took months to add. That includes high-resolution textures and DirectX 11 support, and all the effects knobs you’d expect: shading, lens flares, shadows, water, anisotropic filtering, and more. Less scientifically, it looks as good and plays as well as anything on the platform. Every particle effect—from the flash of sparks when you pull the trigger on a Typhoon, to the radial detonation of an airburst arrow—is candy coming out of a piñata. CryEngine’s lighting makes mundane corners of the world feel authentic. The score, too, is outstanding, retaining its hints of Hans Zimmer despite the composer no longer being involved. Every moment benefits from the thudding, modern action movie music (that never resorts to dubstep in a search for relevance), songs intermingled with understated electronic sounds.

Crytek hasn’t pushed itself with Crysis 3. Compared to the wonderland that say, Far Cry 3 drops you into, its world is low on moments-of-awe per hour, and on the hours you’ll spent in it: I finished in about nine. The legacy left by Crysis, assuming this is the last we’ll see of the franchise in the near future, is much different than the craterous impact the original game made in 2007. It’s still a terrific, dazzling action experience with a core mechanic that empowers you, and ultimately, this feels more like Crysis 2: Episode 2 than a sequel that deserves your maximum enthusiasm.
Crysis
Vietcry


Ok, so maybe Vietcry doesn't deviate that steeply from Crysis—they're both about shooting bewildered soldiers in the middle of a jungle—but the Vietnam War is a natural setting for the lush canopies and open maps of the FPS. Skirting the war's more dramatic tussles with morality and politics enshrined in classic films such as Apocalypse Now, the German-made Vietcry hands you the guns but yanks the pivotal Nanosuit and its maximum overpowered-ness.

The mod shows remarkable polish after a lengthy 10 months in boot camp. Though stripping Crysis' sci-fi connections is a nod toward keeping things believable—well, as believable as blowing up a car with just a few pistol shots allows—the changes also bring in old-school FPS mechanics: med-kits and armor jackets replace regenerating health, so you'll need to scrounge for protection and ammo during the mission.

Grab Vietcry from Mod DB. There's also a multi-cultural trailer for viewing, featuring German-speaking American soldiers trading lead with Vietnamese fighters.
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